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West Bengal: Not new to violence towards journalists

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By Arnab Mitra

Twenty-one journalists from various media houses were attacked and injured on October 3, while they were covering the elections to the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation in West Bengal.

These attacks have once again brought forward the issue of freedom of press and the safety of the journalists working in the field.

According to Forbes Media, more than a thousand journalists have died since 1992 while covering crossfires, handling dangerous assignments, or in combat related fatalities but murder is by far the leading cause of the death of Journalists.

In the year 2015, 44 Journalists were killed in different parts of the world. In India, three journalists were killed and many were attacked while covering the news. In Madhya Pradesh, Aaj Tak Journalist Akshay Singh died covering Vyapam scam. Journalist Sandeep Kothari was killed in Madhya Pradesh after he revealed the illegal mining activities and the Shahjahanpur based Social Media Journalist Jagendra Singh was allegedly killed by the local police at the behest of the State Backward Classes Welfare Minister Ram Murti Verma in Uttar Pradesh.

Not only in India but in every corner of the world Journalists are routinely threatened or killed by powerful and influential people who fear the pen more than the sword. In Bangladesh, blogger Niloy Neel was mercilessly killed by the Islamic terrorists. In France, 12 journalists were killed in an attack on French Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, on January 7, 2015 by two Islamist gunmen due to their controversial cartoon of Prophet Muhammad. The American Journalist James Folley and Steven Sotloff were beheaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) when they were covering the war in Syria.

In West Bengal there have been many incidents where the Government tried to choke the freedom of the Press. The black period of Indian Journalism was said to be during the Emergency from June 25, 1975 to March 21, 1977. The leading newspapers like The Hindu, The Statesman, and The Times of India had published newspapers with blank editorials as a mark of protest against media censorship. At that time, many journalists were tortured and sent to jail, including Barun Sengupta- the founder editor of leading Bengali Newspaper Bartaman, Gour Kishore Ghosh- founder editor of leading Bengali newspaper Aajkal, and Kushwant Singh.

In 1984, the Anandabazar office was forcefully closed down by congress hooligans for 51 days. Journalist Avijit Basu had to pay the price for unearthing the picture of ‘Real Democracy’ on August 13, 2000 when he covered the CPI(M) atrocities in Uttarpara-Kotrang municipal elections (Source: Anandabazar Archive). From Bidhan Chandra Roy to Mamata Banerjee, every ruler feared the pen and the incident at Bidhannagar again proved the hapless attitude of a coward government..

The recent attacks in Bidhannagar have been severely condemned by various journalists belonging to different media houses.

Professor Santwan Chattopadhyay, Department of Journalism, Jadavpur University said: “I totally condemn the attack on the journalists, but it is nothing new. Do not forget the attack on the woman journalist when there was a late night meeting in Subhaprasanna’s house before the change of government.”

Thirumoy Banerjee, Sub-editor, Times of India stated: “Not just as a journalist, but also as a common man, it pains me to see members of the media being beaten up like this.” Shantasree Sarkar, Assistant Producer, India Today called the attack as “atrocious” and added: “This is the death of democracy and silencing media will not stop their brutality.”

NewsGram condemns these attacks on the journalists in West Bengal, and we urge the government to remember that “The Pen is mightier than the sword”.

 

Next Story

National Clean Air Programme Should Set Higher Targets

Air pollution in India is now a national security issue. It needs as much attention and budget provision as discussion and sense of urgency in the procurement of defence equipment

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India, air pollution
An Indian Air Force soldier drinks tea as he stands guard next to rifles during a break at the rehearsal for the Republic Day parade on a cold winter morning in New Delhi, Dec. 26, 2018. VOA

By Rajendra Shende 

There is a striking similarity between Paris Climate Agreement and India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) launched recently. The Paris Agreement is an agreement by the countries to map a global action to keep global warming two degrees centigrade below pre-industrial level.

It utterly lacks teeth to deal with issues, among others, non-compliance and the essential need for finance and technology transfer for achieving that target. Volunteerism is the undercurrent on which the shaky edifice of Paris Agreement rests.

India’s NCAP is a similar story. It is a plan to make a plan to keep the air quality that meets the norms of the World Health Organisation (WHO). While the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) deserves all the appreciation and encouragement to get going on the job, though quite late and definitely five years behind schedule of another polluted country, China. Non-recognition of the nation-wide threat seems to be the undercurrent on which this well-intended and much-needed national programme rests.

To be fair, the anti-pollution measures have already begun in India over the last decade, though in bits and pieces and through knee-jerks, mainly in setting air quality and vehicle emissions standards, national air quality monitoring programme and indices, fuel quality norms etc.
Even after 42 measures issued earlier by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and graded response action plan that addresses the seasonal and level of severity for Delhi and other cities, air pollution remains a national challenge of Himalayan proportions.

The only major action that has been effective in providing the immediate benefits is extraordinary and accelerated level of penetration of LPG-use in the household and in public transport like buses and auto-rickshaws. Energy efficiency measures through use of LED bulbs, efficient fans, refrigerators and air conditioners have helped in reducing the consumption of fossil fuel in generating extra electricity and the air pollution.

Credit certainly goes to the present government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal. Sadly, India still remains on top of the list of the countries where a majority of the mega cities have air quality which is a hundred times worse than the WHO norms.

Nearly 50 per cent of the top most polluted 30 cities are in India. Delhi is now more known dubiously as the world” air-pollution capital rather than India’s political capital. Out of the seven million deaths that take place globally, as per WHO, due to outdoor and indoor pollution, nearly 1.25 million deaths ( 2017) take place in India.

Delhi. air pollution
A man rides his bicycle in front of the India Gate shrouded in smog in New Delhi, Dec. 26, 2018. VOA

About 51 per cent of these deaths were of people younger than 70. More than four decades of the efforts on a ‘smokeless chulha”(domestic cooking stove), first by the government and then by the mushrooming national and international NGOs, the deaths in 2017 due to indoor pollution caused by the burning of the solid fuel in cooking stoves stands at half a million, as per one report. This in a country where clean environment and pollution-free air and water are constitutionally mandated.

India” efforts at the highest level really started more than four decades back when The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, was enacted under Article 253 of the Indian Constitution to enhance the well-being of its citizens which is now deep-rooted in India” development philosophy and strategy. The 106 pages of the NCAP with nearly 63 pages of substantive text and rest broad strategies and annexes represent, at best, good intentions and a structured way to move forward. The document, however, grossly overlooks the nation-wide emergency and drastic measures needed to redress the grim, dangerous and fast-deteriorating situation.

In a country where emergency measures are not unfamiliar, one wonders why the NCAP sounds like any other plan that embodies elephantine speed of execution.

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The goal of the NCAP is to meet the prescribed annual average ambient air quality standards at all locations in the country in a stipulated time-frame. It recognises that internationally, the successful actions had been city-specific rather than country-wide. It also recognises that 35-40 per cent reduction of pollutants in five years for cities, such as Beijing and Seoul, particularly in regard to particulate matter (PM 2.5 and PM 10) concentrations. Hence, the target of 20-30 per cent reduction in such concentration by 2024 is proposed under the NCAP (2017 as base year).

Recognising Modi” proclamation that the 21st century is going to be India” century, it is not clear why the NCAP target is lower than what is achieved in Beijing and Seoul. If India takes the top place in GDP growth globally, why do we have such low targets in meeting air quality over five years, particularly considering the fact that it is the 65 per cent of India” young population would be the main victims of the worsening air quality?

Air pollution in India is now a national security issue. It needs as much attention and budget provision as discussion and sense of urgency in the procurement of defence equipment. (IANS)